The lack of high speed broadband access for so many families, businesses and community facilities continues to be a source of serious concern in many parts of the country.
Unfortunately many areas of Co. Cavan and Co. Monaghan have a broadband service that is totally inadequate. The past three months have shown clearly the need for every community to have access to a modern and up to date telecommunications infrastructure. I have had representations on behalf of people working from home and from students in so many parts of Co. Cavan and Co. Monaghan, all experiencing serious difficulties with poor connectivity. This is not acceptable at a time when so much work and learning is done on line. People doing their routine daily business need access to proper telecommunications.
The government over the past few years has failed so many areas and communities by not having a high speed broadband network rolled out to a far greater portion of the country. Progress is urgently needed in relation to this vital infrastructure if we are to have any hope of balanced regional development.
Please see links to replies to my most recent parliamentary questions in Dáil Éireann on this issue
At the request of arts organisations, both local and national, I raised with the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, through Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Éireann, the need to provide adequate financial supports for the arts sector due to the adverse impact of covid-19.
This crisis has a serious impact on all sectors of the arts and creative industries. Great credit is due to the National Campaign for the Arts in putting to government a very strong case for support. They highlighted the need to provide help for artists and art workers and I was glad to support that campaign.
Indeed through these challenging times artists continue to work to bring art, culture and joy to our communities and those efforts are to be commended.
Below reply from the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to my Parliamentary Question tabled on this very important issue –
______________________________________________ For Written Answer on :16/06/2020 Question Number(s): 1110Question Reference(s): 11492/20 Department:Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D. ______________________________________________
To ask the Minister for Culture; Heritage and the Gaeltacht the further developments in relation to the need to provide adequate financial supports for the arts sector in view of the receipt of her correspondence of 30 April 2020 to this Deputy (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) Email sent 10/06/2020 at 12:02
As Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht I recognise that COVID-19, and the public health measures necessary to slow the spread of the virus, have had an unprecedented effect on the cultural sector. The response of the Government has been to introduce measures to support workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 that apply to all sectors of the economy, including those who work in the culture sector. On 22 May, I published a comprehensive booklet on the supports available to the art sector and this is available at this link https://www.chg.gov.ie/app/uploads/2020/05/covid-19-support-and-information-for-the-arts-sector.pdf
In addition, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Taoiseach and I today announced €25 million in extra supports to help the Arts and Culture sector recover from the Covid19 Emergency in 2020. The funding will include bursaries and commissions to artists and arts organisations, and resources for museums and culture workers as they prepare for the re-opening of society. This is additional to funding previously allocated to the sector.
A total of €20 million will be allocated to the Arts Council bringing its allocation this year to €100 million. A further €5 million will be available for other measures, including securing the future of key cultural and museum spaces and facilities throughout Ireland, and the production of high-quality digital art and on-line performances.
______________________________________________ For Written Answer on :16/06/2020 Question Number(s): 37 Question Reference(s): 11382/20 Department:Foreign Affairs and Trade Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D. ______________________________________________
* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the level of passport services available at present; the timescale for a resumption of all passport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Brendan Smith T.D. For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 16 June, 2020.
Once the potential impact of Covid-19 became obvious, contingency planning commenced to minimise the impact of restrictions on the delivery of passport services. In particular, plans were put in place to ensure that we continued to provide an emergency service for the issuance of passports in cases of serious illness or death abroad.
The Passport Service also assisted those whose applications were regarded as urgent. While staff were on site during the pandemic, carrying out this necessary work, they also produced approximately 6,000 additional passports. The additional passports were adult passport renewal applications received online which required minimum staff intervention.
In addition, as part of the response to the crisis, personnel from the Passport Service have been and will continue to be redeployed into other essential public service roles, such as assisting the HSE with contact tracing and facilitating the payment of social welfare benefits for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
The Passport Service has now started a phased return to full operation. This planning is in line with the wider Government plan to reopen in phases. The Passport Service resumed the processing of non-essential online applications on the 9 June (in Phase 2 of the Government Roadmap) and produced over 12,000 passports in the first week of operation. There are currently 32,000 applications in our system being processed. The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we believe that we are well-placed to ensure the online service will be meeting its usual turnaround times of approximately two weeks by the end of the month.
We encourage all applicants to apply via the Passport Online service which has won awards for its user-friendly process, including a NALA award for the use of plain English. If an applicant is not familiar with using a computer, a friend or relative with basic computer skills can help them to apply online – the process only takes ten minutes to complete. Passport Online can also facilitate social distancing, given that a renewal application for an adult does not require the signature of a witness.
Passport Online expanded in 2019 to include first time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Europe. Irish citizens, including children, can also renew their passports online 24/7, from anywhere in the world.
Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil T.D. Brendan Smith has been informed by the Minister for Health that in discussions with the INMO and midwives from the Hospital he outlined his commitment to the National Maternity Strategy and his full support for the continuation and further development of community midwifery services in Cavan General Hospital.
Minister Harris was replying to Deputy Brendan Smith’s Parliamentary Question regarding the status of the Midwifery Led Unit at Cavan General Hospital and the proposal to cease that service.
“The Clinical Director of the National Women & Infants Health Programme has informed me that he understands that any decisions concerning the future of the MLU in Cavan have been paused. He also added that he understands that a process is being put in place which hopefully will resolve this issue in a reasonable, fair, constructive and progressive manner.
The Minister further informed me that approval had issued to the National Women and Infants Health Programme to fund an Advanced Midwifery Practitioner in Cavan General Hospital to provide additional senior midwifery expertise and capability and enable the further expansion of community midwifery services in Cavan.
The RCSI Hospital Group also in response to my representations state that the Midwifery Led Unit continues to be fully operational and that this Group continues to be committed to implementing the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2020”, stated Brendan Smith.
PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ATTACHED AND REPLY FROM RCSI HOSPITAL GROUP
* To ask the Minister for Health the status of the midwifery-led unit at Cavan General Hospital; if his attention has been drawn to a proposal to cease the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Brendan Smith T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 16 June, 2020.
Firstly, I would like to be clear that the Government is fully committed to the ongoing implementation of the National Maternity Strategy. The Strategy is evidence based, in line with international norms and was informed by the voices of women from across the country, drawn from the 1,324 responses received during the public consultation process. Outlined in the Strategy is a new model of care for maternity services with three care pathways – Supported, Assisted and Specialised – ensuring that women receive the right care, from the right professional, at the right time in the right place. In line with that model of care, pregnant women deemed to be at normal risk will be offered, and encouraged to avail of, care in the Supported Care pathway. Key to realising this goal is the development and expansion of community midwifery services, as recommended in the Strategy.
Good progress has been made since the Strategy’s publication in 2016, with midwifery led and community-based services increasingly available across the country. On Friday 5th of June last the National Women & Infants Health Programme applied for a drawdown of new development funding which is being provided for maternity services in 2020. This funding request was approved on 10th June and will facilitate the further development of community midwifery services around the country. The drawdown approval specifically includes funding for an Advanced Midwifery Practitioner in Cavan General Hospital to provide additional senior midwifery expertise and capability and enable the further expansion of community midwifery services in Cavan.
I was very surprised at media reports of the proposed closure of the Midwifery Led Unit in Cavan as neither I, nor my Department, was advised of any intended change in relation to maternity services at the hospital. It is clear that any cessation or diminution of midwifery led services is not in line with the recommendations of the Strategy. Therefore, my Department has requested, and is currently awaiting, a full report from the National Women & Infants Health Programme (NWIHP) on the situation in Cavan General Hospital. Assurances have also been sought from the Programme that maternity services within the RCSI Hospital Group are, and will continue to be, developed in line with Government policy.
Once the full report has been received, my Department will work with the NWIHP to ensure that any additional supports which are required to secure the future of community midwifery services in Cavan, will be put in place. This will ensure that the choice of the Supported Care pathway remains available to women attending Cavan General Hospital for maternity services.
With regard to your particular queries in relation to the numbers of women attending the Cavan Midwifery Led Unit, as these are operational issues, I have asked the Health Service Executive to reply to you directly.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has welcomed the announcement that the Department of Education is to run an expanded summer scheme to meet the needs of children with additional educational needs.
The Summer Provision will be available to a wide range of students with severe to moderate needs, autism, Down syndrome and children with audio and visual impairments. The scheme will be available both through participating schools and in the home. DEIS schools will also have the opportunity to run literacy and numeracy camps.
Deputy Smith said, “It is welcome that the Minister has progressed plans in this area. In light of the concern which has been expressed by some organisations and parents I particularly welcome the expansion of the scheme to a broader range of students than in previous years.
“This is such an important programme for so many families. I had previously pressed the Minister for Education to make a decision on this matter. We are all too aware the impact of school closures has had on pupils with special educational needs in particular. There is a clear need to stop and address the learning loss which is taking place.
“A number of elements will require further detail in the coming days including how this will take place in the classroom setting and the willingness of schools to participate. This information needs to be provided as soon as possible.
“The Minister has talked about this scheme being made available to 24-25,000 pupils. I hope that the scheme which has been announced achieves this objective.
“In terms of schools reopening in September, I believe, as Fianna Fáil has said many times, that there is scope for NPHET to further examine the advice provided by the WHO which we know is at odds with our guidelines. I am hopeful that this will develop in the coming weeks and that the risk assessment announced by the Minister is completed without delay. Students, their parents and teachers all need better clarity,” concluded Deputy Smith.
Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has been informed by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade that a report on the Glenanne Gang series of murderous attacks being carried out by former Chief Constable John Boucher will include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Deputy Brendan Smith raised again with the Tánaiste through Parliamentary Questions in Dáil Éireann the need for the government to continue to pursue with the British government the need for a full and comprehensive investigation. He added that it is most disappointing that the British government continue to ignore the unanimous requests of Dáil Éireann in relation to the need to provide access for an independent, international legal person to all files and papers pertaining to the Dublin Monaghan bombings of 17th May 1974.
“Painful memories remain for people who lived through these dreadful attacks and for those who lost loved ones in the bombings. Unfortunately not only were their lives irrevocably changed, they are still having to fight for justice.
I am deeply disappointed with the lack of engagement from the British government in establishing the truth of what happened on that dark day. The perpetrators of these horrific attacks have not been brought to justice”, stated Brendan Smith TD.
Below is a reply by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to my most recent Parliamentary Question –
37. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had recent discussions with the UK Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the need for the UK Government to respond positively to the unanimous requests of Dáil Éireann concerning the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6656/20]
Last week, 17 May, was the 46th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 in which thirty three were killed and hundreds seriously injured, attacks which saw the largest loss of life on a single day in the Troubles.
While it was unfortunately not possible to gather at the memorial on Talbot Street in Dublin this year to mark the anniversary, we still stand together as a country at this time in remembrance and in solidarity with the victims’ families and survivors.
The Government will continue to seek the full truth of these appalling attacks, and some measure of closure for those affected, in accordance with the three Motions passed unanimously by Dáil Éireann.
The All-Party motion on the 1974 Dublin Monaghan bombings adopted by the Dáil on 25 May 2016 has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government.
These motions call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as well as the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and the murder of Seamus Ludlow.
The Government continues to actively pursue the implementation of these all-Party Dáil motions. We have consistently raised the issue with the British Government on a bilateral basis, including at the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference.
I and Minister Flanagan have made clear to our counterparts that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government, and that there remains an urgent need for a response.
The Government will continue to engage with the British Government on this request, at senior political level and in official level engagement by my Department, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House and until a resolution is found.
The Government maintains a close and cooperative relationship with Justice for the Forgotten, as we continue work to seek the full facts of the appalling events of 17 May 1974 and of other attacks in this jurisdiction during the Troubles.
The Government welcomes the announcement by the PSNI on 30 November 2019 that former Chief Constable Jon Boucher will head an Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on the Glenanne Gang series of cases.
The Government is conscious that this work by Chief Constable Boucher is very relevant to a number of cases of the utmost concern for victims’ families and survivors, both North and South, who suffered in the murderous attacks by the so-called Glenanne Gang. This includes the Hillcrest Bar bombing, and the Miami Showband attack, the bombing of Kay’s Tavern in Dundalk and also, of course, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
It is to be hoped that the report being conducted by Chief Constable Boucher will contribute to the long process of justice, truth and acknowledgement of what happened in these awful cases, where collusion is a feature.
Chief Constable Boucher is conducting a police investigation, and as such will be in a position to seek the cooperation of the Gardaí through the framework of Mutual Legal Assistance, which underpins the excellent cooperation that exists between the Gardaí and the PSNI more broadly.
The Government will be supportive of facilitating this investigation, subject to the requirements of the law, as we have other investigative processes in Northern Ireland, in relation to the attacks conducted by Glenanne Gang and of course other cases from the Troubles.
In any scenario, we will continue to engage with the British Government, to pursue all possible avenues to achieve progress on this issue, consistent with the request made by this House, until a satisfactory resolution is found.
I welcome changes announced by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to the Rent Supplement scheme to make it more easily available to victims of domestic violence.
I had raised this important issue in Dáil debates with the Minister for Justice and with Minister Doherty and I compliment Tearmann Dvs and Safe Ireland on their important work in advancing this proposal.
The changes will enable victims of domestic violence to get immediate access to Rent Supplement for a three month period to ensure that they are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial worries. The usual means test for Rent Supplement will not apply for this three month period.
The increase in domestic violence over recent months is a further worrying development and shows clearly the urgent need to provide adequate supports in a timely manner for victims. We also need to see much needed progress in providing refuge accommodation in areas such as Cavan and Monaghan.
The HSE has informed Deputy Brendan Smith that construction work on the new Primary Care Centre in Killeshandra is expected to commence in the coming weeks.
“The HSE in their reply to me following further Parliamentary Questions I tabled in Dáil Éireann state that the Killeshandra Primary Care Centre will be delivered by means of the HSE’s Operational Lease mechanism. They state that the town centre development has received planning permission and they anticipate that the development will open in 2021” stated Deputy Brendan Smith.
Deputy Brendan Smith has welcomed this confirmation from the HSE following his ongoing representations in relation to this much needed health facility.
– FF has been calling for more frequent testing for some time –
Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Health that he has sanctioned weekly COVID tests for staff and residents of nursing homes beginning next week.
Deputy Smith said, “My Party colleagues and I have been calling for more frequent testing for our nursing homes for over a month and I am pleased that Minister Harris has now listened to the advice and has given the go ahead for testing for staff and residents of nursing homes, beginning next week.
“There has been an unacceptably high number of Coronavirus deaths in our nursing homes and residential facilities since this pandemic took hold – 63% of all deaths have been in these settings. In the fortnight to 6th June, there were an additional 273 cases in nursing homes, with very sadly another 55 people passing away.
“It’s clear that there were failures in the system and older people and those who were most vulnerable were not properly protected from the virus, with inadequate state support.
“We need to learn from the mistakes of the past three months and place a greater emphasis on nursing homes, the safety of residents, and better state support.
“In particular, Counties Cavan and Monaghan have been two of the counties most affected by the transmission of coronavirus. With such widespread transmission it is vital a robust testing regime is implemented for our nursing homes.
“I am glad the Minister has taken this on board and we need to ensure that the testing begins, as was advised, next week so that our older people and those who are most vulnerable along with staff can be given the best protection against this vicious virus,” concluded Deputy Smith.
This week Fáilte Ireland published a suite of sectoral specific operational guidelines for tourism businesses that will assist with the safe reopening of the tourism and hospitality industry.
As the National Tourism Development Authority we drafted them in consultation with industry bodies and associations; the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), relevant State agencies, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and wider Government.
The operational guidelines provide detailed advice on the necessary systems to be implemented in order to instil public confidence and reboot business while adhering to public health advice and protocols. They will be regularly updated in line with Government public health advice as and when this advice evolves. This includes any further guidance that is provided following work by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and National Public Health Emergency Team on the application of the existing social distancing requirements in specific, defined and controlled environments in the hospitality industry during periods of low incidence of the disease.
To support the implementation of the Operational Guidelines, Fáilte Ireland’s business supports are helping businesses to plan out the key elements of reopening and recovery. These supports have been developed with industry experts and address some of the priority areas of business recovery. They can be viewed on our Fáilte Ireland Support Hub.